Artwork may have been hung upside-down for past 75 years
This is not the first time the New York museum hangs an artwork incorrectly.
Curator Susanne Meyer-Büser announced at a press conference on the eve of Mondrian. Evolution (a Piet Mondrian exhibition) hosted in Germany’s Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K20 museum, that the exhibition’s star piece "New York City 1" (1941) has been displayed wrongly upside down since first being seen in public.
German publication Monopol reported Thursday on the aspect that pointed out why it believed to be hung incorrectly. A photograph taken of the artist’s studio in 1944 after he passed away showed that the tightly grouped yellow, blue, and black stripes are seen at the top of the easel, as confirmed by the curator.
An adhesive tape version of the similarly named "New York" is hanging in Paris at Centre Pompidou right-side up.
Meyer-Büser asked: “Could it be that the orientation shown in the photo is the actual one Mondrian had intended?” adding that the picture was first displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1945 in which the grouping of stripes was also shown at the bottom rather than the top. “Was it coincidence, was it oversight?” she commented, adding her belief that it may have been flipped over during unpacking at MoMA 75 years ago.
Furthermore, the tape at the top is severely torn and does not reach the end of the canvas, indicating that Mondrian likely worked from top to bottom.
Despite the controversy regarding the top or bottom direction of work, it will still be displayed at Mondrian. Evolution, illustrating Mondrian’s stylistic development since 1945.
According to Monopol, Meyer-Büser said: “If I turn the work around, I risk destroying it... maybe there is no right or wrong orientation at all?”
This is not the MoMA's first time in displaying artwork incorrectly. During the exhibition of work by Henri Matisse in 1961 at the museum, stockbroker Genevieve Habert noticed the artwork "La Bateau" hung upside down but the surprise was that neither the museum staff, nor the 116,000 visitors, and not even the artist’s son Pierre realized the mistake.
To prove her point, Habert bought a catalog and discovered the evidence, but was instead scolded by museum staff, after which she took her case to the New York Times. Following a report published by the magazine, MoMA curators eventually rehung the picture correctly and the artist's son Pierre said: “Mrs. Habert should be given a medal".